British Medical Association urges government to reconsider pension plans

The British Medical Association (BMA) has called on the government to urgently reconsider proposed changes to the NHS pension scheme.

The decision was taken at a meeting on 18 January following the results of a UK-wide survey, which found that medical staff are greatly opposed to the proposal.

The BMA pensions survey 2012 found that 84% of doctors and medical students said the latest proposals should be rejected. Almost two-thirds (63%) said they would personally be prepared to take industrial action to pursue changes to the proposals. More than a third (36%) of doctors aged 50 and over say they intend to retire early if the changes go ahead.

The government’s offer includes an increase in the amount that members contribute towards their pensions. Currently, doctors pay 6.5%, 7.5% or 8.5% depending on what they earn. Under the government’s proposals, those contributions will start to increase from April 2012 such that, by April 2014 individuals who are currently paying 8.5% will have to pay 14.5%.

It also proposes that existing methods of pension accrual are replaced by a career average revalued earnings (Care) scheme for all doctors, including hospital doctors who currently have a final salary pension scheme, to come into force on 1 April 2015.

The BMA has formally written to the government rejecting the offer and urging it to engage with the BMA and NHS unions to agree to fairer changes.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of BMA Council said: “The strength and scale of feeling among doctors is abundantly clear – they feel let down and betrayed, and for many this is the final straw.

“Doctors are at the forefront of attempts to save the NHS £20 billion, while trying to protect patient care, are in the midst of huge system reform in England, which is causing chaos in many areas, and are about to enter a fourth successive year of a pay freeze.

“Now on top of this, they are facing wholesale changes to their pension scheme, which was radically overhauled less than four years ago and is actually delivering a positive cashflow to the Treasury.

“Forcing doctors to work to almost 70 is one of our most serious concerns because it could put pressure on doctors to work beyond the age at which they feel competent and safe.

“Industrial action remains a last resort and the government must urgently reconsider its damaging plans. The action we are considering is unprecedented in recent decades. This demonstrates the current level of discontent among NHS staff.”

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers organisation, added: “Talks are the best way to secure a final deal. The NHS scheme talks are complex involving over a dozen unions so it is therefore welcome that, along with a number of other unions, the BMA will continue the discussions.

“It is essential that everyone now hammers out an agreement. Let’s concentrate on securing the best sustainable deal, not on industrial action which will always be damaging to patient care.”

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